2011 MLB Home Run Derby: 13 Reasons to Watch
The All-Star festivities are in full swing.
The Futures Game kicked off the break with a look at the future, and now it's time for the power hitters to crush the ball so hard it breaks the space-time continuum.
Tonight we will see the first-ever Home Run Derby with team captains (and the captains' choices).
Big Papi leads the AL with fellow Dominicans Jose Bautista and Robinson Cano and his teammate Adrian Gonzalez.
Against him is Prince Fielder with the NL "power Matts," Matt Holliday and Matt Kemp, and his third most powerful teammate, Rickie Weeks.
Here are the reasons why you should tune in to watch the power show at the Home Run Derby.
1. Jose Bautista
Jose Bautista has become one of the game's premier power hitters over the past year. He's gone from questionable one-year wonder to bona-fide superstar in the process.
In Bautista's first six seasons, he topped out at 16 home runs for a single campaign.
He surpassed that by a lot when he led the majors in 2010 with 54 home runs. He's done it again in 2011—he once again leads the majors at 31 home runs.
Bautista has the potential to be this year's Josh Hamilton at the Derby.
His improved timing and incredible bat speed make him poised for a show this year, and he is the clear favorite to win the entire competition.
Bautista is about to break through on national television in a big way.
2. Ortiz Antics
Big Papi is normally one of the game's most entertaining characters, but he has been known to goof around even more at the Home Run Derby.
In 2007, Ortiz presented Vladimir Guerrero with a long case during Guerrero's home-run round. Inside the box was one of Ortiz's bats to provide his countryman with some support.
I would expect some serious Dominican pride to come from Ortiz, Cano, and Bautista this year.
Led by Big Papi, they are probably going to put on a show for the crowd.
3. The Original Participants Are Participating
This is directed at Derek Jeter: I don't care if you don't deserve to go to the All-Star game. I don't care if you don't want to play in the All-Star game. If the fans select you and you are healthy, you must go to the All-Star game.
This game isn't about the players. It's about the fans.
As for the Derby, all eight of the players announced are going to participate.
I'll admit that they weren't the first eight asked, but if I bought tickets to a Rolling Stones concert and Ke$ha came out, I would be furious.
In this case, Jhonny Peralta is Ke$ha (even though he deserved to go to the All-Star game much more than Jeter).
Prince Fielder and David Ortiz were selected as team captains because they are the last two winners of the Home Run Derby, and they could each be the winner again.
The park is pretty even in depth, but slightly favors right-handed hitters.
That said, Fielder and Ortiz are the beefiest mashers in the competition and have the top two career home run totals among the participants.
The big guys have experience and physical advantages that could provide them with edges over their foes.
A repeat could be cool to watch, especially because they don't run the bases (Ortiz would take two hours and then get in a fight with Kevin Gregg or some other pitcher).
5. It's Much Better Than the All-Star Game
Think about the best part of the All-Star weekends.
Hockey's All-Star game is boring, but the awesome skill shootout is so much fun to watch. The NBA All-Star Game is just a bunch of players trying to goof around and forget defense for the second half, but the night before is the three point shootout and the most entertaining athletic event: the slam dunk competition. I'll even throw in that cool pre-NFL draft skills challenge that ESPN shows sometimes.
My point is that nobody cares about the All-Star game itself. The best part is watching people push their abilities to the extreme against the best at that skill.
In this case, it's mashing home runs, which is awesome.
Does the NFL have some sort of Pro Bowl? Probably, but I've never seen anything about it because they don't have a complimentary activity (and none of the players show up to that one either).
6. Seeing Your Favorite Players with Their Kids
It's not really that exciting, but some people (moms everywhere) like the family aspect of the game. Also, it could be a clever way to try to get your girlfriend/wife to watch the derby.
7. Chase Field Is Home Run Heaven
ESPN rated Chase Field as the third most hitter-friendly park in the majors behind Coors Field (lighter air and the altitude) and Rangers Ballpark in Arlington.
If you've paid attention to the Diamondbacks the last couple years, you've probably seen a few big shots on that field.
Justin Upton has been hitting the highlight reel frequently with bombs at Chase Field. Wily Mo Pena has only hit one home run there, but it was a pretty sight. Mark Reynolds (who should have been the fourth contestant instead of Robinson Cano) launched tape-measure shots day after day in Arizona before being traded to Baltimore.
Power will be on full display and will be aided by the park's dimensions.
An added bonus are the shots to center that bounce off the wall. I think it's cool when players look up to see it sail over that yellow line.
8. Power Outage
It's kind of sad, but watching a power hitter fail miserably at the Home Run Derby is slightly entertaining.
You're on the edge of your seat as they get to those last few outs and then...
I can't help but laugh when a player ends with zero home runs—my inner Nelson Muntz lets out a "Ha Ha!"
Inge did it a couple years ago, and it just felt like foreshadowing. I wish no player a poor career if he is a nice person, and I have nothing against Inge.
You're allowed to laugh if he sets himself up to fail.
The ball is tossed pretty softly in the Home Run Derby. Players are allowed to take a ball that they don't like. If you are too impatient to wait for one you will surely hit and you miss, it's just hilarious.
Bret Boone had a swinging strike in the 2003 Home Run Derby, and it was just the cap on a zero-for-ten performance.
Sorry Boone, but you can't miss at a batting practice fastball.
10. Kemp vs. Fielder
Matt Kemp and Prince Fielder are tied with 22 home runs at the All-Star break, so it's a chance for the two to show who has the edge.
It's the first year for Kemp, who has had a breakout year in 2011. Fielder is a proven winner in the competition, but Hollywood's center fielder may give him a run for his money.
This is the first Home Run Derby that will have Twitter integration. Three of the eight participants will be live tweeting and, according to the MLB, there will be fan interaction.
If you watch along with the show, you may be able to catch a hitch in a swing and earn Twitter supremacy by pointing it out.
12. Boomer and the Gang
Chris "Boomer" Berman is one of the most entertaining announcers in sports and knows how to call a home run in an entertaining way (unlike Joe Buck, who always sounds bored).
Joining Boomer are former star shortstop Nomar Garciaparra and former power hitter John Kruk. They should add some great flavor as well.
13. Rickie Weeks and Robinson Cano
Weeks and Cano aren't like the rest of the field: They don't look like home run hitters.
They aren't tiny guys, but they aren't like the others in size.
What they lack in size, they make up with some serious punch.
The two have surprising power, and it will be very interesting to see if it's just game power or true, raw power.